The Milky Way is the galaxy that contains our Solar System. The Milky Way is a barred spiral galaxy that has a diameter usually considered to be about 100,000-120,000 light-years.

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A nebula (Latin for "cloud") is an interstellar cloud of dust, hydrogen, helium and other ionized gases. Originally, nebula was a name for any diffuse astronomical object, including galaxies beyond the Milky Way. The Andromeda Galaxy, for instance, was once referred to as the Andromeda Nebula before the true nature of galaxies was confirmed in the early 20th century.

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In astronomy, the interstellar medium (ISM) is the matter that exists in the space between the star systems in a galaxy. This matter includes gas in ionic, atomic, and molecular form, as well as dust and cosmic rays. It fills interstellar space and blends smoothly into the surrounding intergalactic space.

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Cosmic dust is dust which exists in outer space. Most cosmic dust particles are between a few molecules to 0.1 µm in size. A smaller fraction of all dust in space consists of larger refractory minerals that condensed as matter left the stars.

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